Updates

April, 2015 update

Apologies to all for not keeping this page current. We have kept out Facebook page current, but we've let this one lapse. We haven't done more simply because Restore Louisiana Now has no staff and I have zero technical competence. 

So it's past time to update you on the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorit East against nearly 100 oil, gas, and pipeline companies over coastal land-loss. As you probably know, there were a few very small settlements last fall, trivial in the amount but important as precedents. Then we received very good news when a state judge threw out-- on four separate grounds-- the law which the legislature passed designed to kill the lawsuit. The attorneys are very confident the state supreme court will concur.

However, we also received a serious blow in February when a federal district court dismissed the case. The ruling was so flawed, however-- in fact, an attorney opposed to the suit told me laughed when he read the judge's opinion-- that we believe there is a very real chance the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn the ruling. As one of the attorneys on the case put it, "This isn't a Hail Mary. It's more like going for a two-point conversion." 

And there is a real positive that could come out of this: If the Fifth Circuit does rule in our favor, we'll be in a far stronger position than we were before.

Meanwhile, in other news, at this writing it does not look like there will be another attempt in the legislature to kill the lawsuit.

Finaly, below is an op ed I wrote for The Advocate a few weeks ago which, I hope, gives you a good sense of what's what and where things stand. 

 

In 1989, the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association — the trade association for Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and the other majors — conducted a study of areas most damaged by coastal land loss. By then, the threat presented by land loss was well-known, state laws required that areas damaged by the energy industry be “restored to the pre-existing conditions” and Governor David Treen had tried and failed to pay for fixing the problem with a new Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy on the oil and gas industry.
 
Perhaps Mid-Continent launched its study hoping for scientific support to allow the industry to escape liability. If so, it was disappointed. The study concluded that “canal development tend[s] to be the overwhelming cause of wetlands losses.”
What has the oil and gas industry done since 1989 to address the problem that was “the overwhelming cause” of land loss in the hardest-hit areas? Can’t think of anything? Exactly.
In 2006, looking at the severe land loss in the Barataria and Terrebonne basins, a study by the state’s Department of Natural Resources attributed an astonishing 76 percent of land loss to “oil and gas exploration and drilling.”
What has the industry done since 2006, when the state blamed it for 76 percent of the problem in those basins? Can’t think of anything? Exactly.
Meanwhile, at least another 500 square miles of Louisiana melted into the sea.
The industry’s responsibility for land loss varies dramatically from region to region, and certainly other causes, including the levees themselves, also have destroyed land. But pretending oil and gas played no role is like pretending Drew Brees doesn’t matter to the Saints offense. For years, the state has declined to enforce existing laws and regulations that since 1980 have required areas be “restored to the pre-existing condition.” To force the industry to obey the law, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority filed its lawsuit against oil, gas and pipeline companies, basing its claim largely on federal law that prohibits doing anything to “impair the usefulness” of a levee and asking only that industry fix the part of the problem it created.
Ever since that lawsuit was filed, the industry has said the suit threatened industry’s cooperation with those trying to preserve the coast. What cooperation? Well, Chevron, which (through Texaco, which it now owns) probably caused more damage than anyone else, brags about supporting a project that will create 293 acres in South Lafourche. But there are 640 acres in a square mile, and the state has lost nearly 2,000 square miles.
And SLFPAE filed only after — eight months after — SLFPAE president Tim Doody and I told Garret Graves, then the governor’s coastal adviser, what our board was considering and suggested we all go to Mid-Continent head Chris John and try to work out a voluntary agreement. Graves replied, “I already tried that. They’re not there yet.” He also made it clear that for political reasons the state would not sue the industry.
Now Judge Nannette Jolivette-Brown has dismissed the flood authority’s case, not because the industry successfully argued it didn’t destroy land but because Brown — using rather bizarre logic — ruled that the right to call the industry to account for impairing a levee’s usefulness belonged only to the federal government and does not “extend to the protection of a levee owner or operator.” The dismissal will be appealed but it will take months before a decision comes down. Stewart Simonson, an attorney uninvolved in the case who was a senior member of the Bush administration, said, “The Fifth Circuit is conservative and pro-business, and they expect a certain level of legal craftsmanship. This isn’t it. The board has a good chance of winning the appeal.”
For the moment, the lawsuit is in abeyance, but it already has a legacy, changing politics and public awareness of the industry’s role. National realities also are settling in. The state’s elected officials have always said they’d get money for the coast from Washington, i.e., from taxpayers. That was always a fantasy. The most pro-environmental president since Teddy Roosevelt just proved it: far from calling for more federal dollars for Louisiana’s coast, Obama called for cutting those dollars to zero.
All this opens the door to three questions.
First, the industry said it was ready to work collaboratively to solve the problem, if only that nasty lawsuit wasn’t in the way. So, industry, when are you going to collaborate — not building 300 acres, but on a scale commensurate with the many billions of dollars of damage your own studies concede you’ve done?
Second, will some politician have the guts to demand that the industry step up? Will the attorney general protect the future of Louisiana? Will someone else? Or will our anti-tax governor stick Louisiana taxpayers with all the costs? In fact, last year, state Rep. Joel Robideaux, another anti-tax conservative and the manager of the bill to kill the lawsuit, conceded that taxpayers would pick up the tab for industry-caused damage.
Or, third, will the coast and so much that makes Louisiana Louisiana simply disappear?
The lawsuit was never the problem; it was filed to solve the problem. Let’s solve the problem. The land loss is the problem.

 

 

A Message from John

July 2, 2014

Colleagues and Friends,

No doubt many of you are wondering what's going on with the flood authority's lawsuit against numerous oil companies. I can assure you, It's alive!

That's the main message. Now for a little more detail:

As you no doubt know, the single bill (SB 469) which Jindal and the industry managed to get through the legislature was signed by the governor. Since it's now-- for the moment anyway-- a "law" it will henceforth be known as Act 544.

The attorneys will definitely challenge this bill on several grounds. Let me name just two:

First, Act 544 does prohibit "local government entities"-- except for parishes-- from suing over any oil-related damages in the coastal zone. However, a local government entity has a very precise legal definition, and that definition does not fit the flood authority. So the bill actually does not prohibit the flood authority from suing. That is a very strong argument that the attorneys will make. (Thank you Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal's favorite attorney, for this genius move in writing the bill; based on his track record in this and other cases apparently, Jimmy needs to go back to school.)

Second, a state court has already ruled that an unrelated law (about a hospital closure) just passed by the legislature is unconstitutional because its advocates violated procedural rules in passing it. They put the bill on the agenda for a committee hearing after 4:00 PM one evening and heard the bill at 9:00 AM the next morning. Exactly the same thing happened with SB 469/ Act 544-- only worse. Most of you will probably recall that SB 469 as originally written had nothing whatsoever to do with the lawsuit. The industry was attempting to move another bill, SB 531. But we had 531 killed in one committee, so they stripped everything out of 469 except the bill number and the title, shoehorned into it the core of 531, and got it heard in a different committee. So not only was proper notice not given, but 469 as it was heard was entirely different from how it was filed. And it gets even more egregious: forget the lack of notice-- even if you were physically in the room when the committee heard 469 you could not get a copy of the bill. This violates all sorts of notice and open meetings standards.

As I said, those are only two of the challenges the attorneys have. They're both pretty good ones. And they have others. Needless to say, the attorneys are happy to be fighting on the battlefield where the lawsuit belongs-- in a courtroom, and not in the legislature.

But that's not the only recent development.

On July 24 2013, the suit was filed in state court in Orleans Parish. The defendants-- the industry-- immediately removed it to federal court, and on December 18, 2013, attorneys for both sides argued before federal Judge Nannette Brown whether it should stay in federal court or return to state court. Judge Brown, incidentally, was appointed by Obama and has only served about two years on the bench. This past Friday, June 27, she ruled that the suit will stay in federal court.

What's that mean for the case?

The biggest positives: Judge Brown's 83 page opinion pretty much rejected all the technical arguments made by the defendants' attorneys, even though she kept the case. Also, by keeping it in federal court, the case is now entirely out of the political arena-- for those of you who don't know, in Louisiana judges are elected, so the industry can pressures state judges by choosing to fund either sitting judges or their opponents and so on. No such pressure works on the federal bench.

The biggest negative: No matter what happens in her court, the result will probably be appealed. And the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal is the most conservative appeals court in the country.

However, if the suit moves forward-- if Judge Brown finds that Act 544 does not apply-- then all those things I said in the past six months about settlements happening will come true. I firmly believe that will happen.

There's a separate issue on the horizon. Paul Kemp is a coastal scientist who sits on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East, and he supports the lawsuit. His term may have expired July 1, 2014. I say "may" because his appointment letter says it expires July 1, 2015. I don't want to get too far into the weeds here as to why the difference, and the Attorney General has been asked to issue an opinion. He probably will soon. If it's determined his term has already expired, that triggers the next battle-- over his renomination. There is a complex nominating process for the board with a special nominating committee, and it's possible that if the committee chooses to do so, it could keep Paul on the board whether Jindal wants him or not. In the recent past, the committee cooperated with Jindal, but several things have changed since then.

That's all for now folks. When something happens, I will give you another update.

Thanks for your support. And remember who helped us-- who helped you, if you live in Louisiana-- and who betrayed you when the next election rolls around.

All the best,

John


A Message from John

Is there a single person in Louisiana who believes the governor is putting the state's interest ahead of his personal ambition?

At last count 106 legal scholars warned that signing the bill would put at risk claims against BP. The attorney general, the president of Jefferson Parish, the New Orleans City Council, and others all called upon the governor to veto the bill. I think he signed it today because they were just the beginning of a broad chorus from around the state and he wanted to cut that off before that chorus became deafening.

 And while there may be doubt whether this bill does or does not limits existing BP claims, there is no doubt that it affects future claims- - if, for example, a pipeline ruptures in the coastal zone.

John Barry - June 6, 2014


Friends,

I want to thank you all for your help and support. This has obviously been a difficult and disappointing fight.

In terms of the legislature, let's not forget those who supported the idea of letting the courts decide-- and those who did not.

I find it astounding that legislators representing coastal areas-- and particularly legislators representing areas that were under water in 2005, such as Nick Lorusso from the New Orleans lakefront and Ray Garofalo from St. Bernard-- voted to kill the opportunity to gain billions of dollars for flood protection in their areas.

Considering that the next election coincides with the 10th anniversary of Katrina and Rita, their constituents might have flood protection on their minds. I look forward to reminding their voters of what Lorusso and Garofalo did.

I'm not sugar coating anything. It was a tough loss. But we do still have several rabbits and hats left, so although the legislative battle is over the war isn't. To quote the classic words of John Belushi in Animal House, "It ain't over until we say it's over."

A final request, find your legislator and thank him or her for their support and if they voted against us promise them that you'll remember next year. The vote is posted below: 

Yay(59):  
Mr. Speaker(Kleckley)AdamsArnold
BarrasBerthelotBilliot
Bishop, S.BroadwaterBurford
Burns, H.Burns, T.Burrell
CarmodyCarterChampagne
ChaneyCromerDanahay
DoveFanninGarofalo
GeymannGisclairGuinn
HarrisHarrisonHavard
HenryHensgensHodges
HoffmannHonoreHoward
IveyJonesLandry, N.
LeopoldLorussoMack
MillerMorris, JayMorris, Jim
PontiPopePrice
PughPylantReynolds
RichardRobideauxSchexnayder
SchroderSeabaughSimon
StokesThibautThierry
ThompsonWhitney 
Nay(39):  
AndersArmesBadon
BarrowBishop, W.Brown
ConnickCoxDixon
EdwardsFoilFranklin
GreeneGuilloryHazel
HillHunterJackson
JamesJeffersonJohnson
LambertLandry, T. LeBas
LegerLopintoMontoucet
MorenoNortonOrtego
PearsonPierreRitchie
ShadoinSmithWilliams, A. 
Williams, P.WillmottWoodruff
Absent(6):  
AbramsonGainesHollis
HuvalSt. GermainTalbot

As far as me personally, I've been spending full time on this since before SLFPAE filed the lawsuit July 24, 2013. Just about a year. No one has paid me anything for it, so I'll have to step back and earn a living. That means I'll write another book. Anyone got any ideas?

All the best,
John

The record of yesterday's vote is listed below. A "Yay" vote supported limiting the authority of local entities and retroactively killing the SLFPA-E lawsuit. The Louisiana Legislators were elected to represent YOU, did they?


Vote NO on SB 469

Call your Representatives today!

http://ih.constantcontact.com/fs173/1101357446137/img/593.jpg

SB 469 is being voted on in the House of Representatives this week! SB 469 is the final big effort by this year's legislature to undermine the authority of local entities, retroactively kill the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority- East(SLFPA-E) lawsuit, and  prevent oil and gas companies from being held accountable for the damages they have caused to our coast. 

Louisiana's Legislators were elected to represent YOU not industry lobbyists. Please urge your Representative to vote NO on SB 469.

Find your Legislators and contact them here.


As Louisiana’s coast shrinks, a political fight grows

As Louisiana’s coastline shrinks, a political fight over responsibility grows (09:20)



Restore Louisiana Now is taking our case to the airwaves of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. If 469 fails there will be no money to shore up the land bridge along Highway 90. It's eroding and all that holds the Gulf back from the Lake. CALL HOUSE LEGISLATORS TODAY. VOTE NO ON 469!


The Final Push

May 27, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Seventeen bills were filed to kill the flood authority's lawsuit demanding that the oil and gas industry obey the law and repair the damage they caused to the coast. It looks more and more like we-- you-- have stopped sixteen of them.

But SB 469 could still prove lethal. The Louisiana House of Representatives will vote on it Thursday or Friday. The bill takes away the flood authority's right to sue, and it would dismiss the suit "with prejudice"-- meaning even if a future legislature gave these important rights back to the flood authority it could not reinstitute a similar lawsuit. 

This is about safety-- protecting lives and property. There is an op ed online now at nola.com which will be in the print edition of the Times-Picayune Wednesday which explains how the lawsuit directly affects the safety of everyone anywhere near Lake Pontchartrain.

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2014/05/coastal_damages_lawsuit_is_abo.html

It also affects people all across the state. If you're getting this note, you probably already know that Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has publicly stated that because of the lawsuit oil companies have approached him about seeking a statewide settlement. That's what everyone wants. Get around a table and fix the problem, get some money flowing to help the entire coast. But if the legislature kills the lawsuit, the oil companies will walk away from the table and do what they've done for the last 50 years-- next to nothing.

We can win this fight, but it won't be easy. It's really up to you. If you contact your state representative, if you get your friends, your acquaintances, your neighbors, the barista in the coffee shop, the person who waits on you in the restaurant or rings up a sale in the hardware store, and even your enemies to contact their state representative, if everyone tells their representative to vote "No!" on SB 469, if everyone says they are watching this vote and will remember it come next election, then we will win.

As you've heard me say before, history doesn't just happen. People make history. You can make some history in the next few days.

Thanks,

John Barry


SB 469 passed the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment late this morning by a vote of 13-6.  

House floor vote on SB 469 will be on Thursday or Friday of this week
 
We are urging everyone to please call their house representatives and urge them to vote NO on SB 469 next week.  For information about the vote see Louisiana House panel votes to kill levee board lawsuit.


A MESSAGE FROM JOHN BARRY: MAY 20, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Congratulations! The House Civil Law Committee is deferring action on SB 547 and SB 553. This is good news. If Jindal and the industry had the votes in that committee, there would be no deferral. This is a long way from a final victory, but right now I'd much rather be where we are on these two bills than where they are-- and it's because you spoke up.

The industry filed seventeen bills to kill the lawsuit. Other than those two bills, there's only one other one left.

SB 469 takes away the legal causes of action of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East. It says the flood authority can't sue to enforce coastal regulations, even though the legislation creating the flood authority explicitly authorized it to address coastal issues.

Let's see if we can kill this bill in the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. It will be difficult, its chairman Gordon Dove is in the oil business, but it can be done. The following representatives are on the fence or leaning no, but if you contact them-- especially if you live in their districts-- and if you get your friends, neighbors, and people past you on the street to contact them, if their constituents swamp them, then we can win.

Rep. Billiot, (504) 436-8929, billiotr@legis.la.gov, Jefferson
Rep. Chaney, (318) 728-5875, chaneyb@legis.la.gov, East Carroll, Ouachita
Rep. Foil, (225) 342-6777, foilf@legis.la.gov, East Baton Rouge
Rep. Garofalo, (504) 278-6599, garofalor@legis.la.gov, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard
Rep. Gisclair, (985) 798-7707, gisclairj@legis.la.gov, Jefferson, Lafourche
Rep. Harrison, (800) 935-2081, harrisoj@legis.la.gov, Assumption, Lafourche, St. Mary, Terrebone
Rep. Leopold, (504) 393-5649, leopoldc@legis.la.gov, Belle Chasse
Rep. Ortego, (337) 886-4687, ortegos@legis.la.gov, Lafayette, St. Landry

If we lose in this committee, it's not over. We will make a push on the floor where right now we're only slightly behind-- but we have a good chance.

Let's do it.

John Barry


These are the members of the House Natural Resources Committee. Please call today and tomorrow. Tell them to vote against SB 469. Tell them that big oil must be above the law in Louisiana.

NAMEHOMETOWNOFFICE PHONEEMAIL
Armes, James K. (D)Leesville(337) 238-7004armesj@legis.la.gov
Billiot, Robert E. (D)Westwego(504) 436-8929billiotr@legis.la.gov
Bishop, Stuart J. (R)Lafayette(337) 981-7409bishops@legis.la.gov
Chaney, Charles R. (R)Rayville(318) 728-5875chaneyb@legis.la.gov
Connick, Patrick (R)Marrero(504) 371-0240connickp@legis.la.gov
Dove, Gordon (R) CHouma(985 ) 876-8823larep052@legis.la.gov
Foil, Franklin J. (R)Baton Rouge(225) 342-6777foilf@legis.la.gov
Garofalo, Raymond E. (R)St. Bernard Parish(504) 277-4729garofalor@legis.la.gov
Gisclair, Jerry (D)Larose(985) 798-7707gisclairj@legis.la.gov
Guinn, John E. (R)Jennings(337) 824-0376guinnj@legis.la.gov
Harrison, Joe (R)Gray(800) 935-2081harrisoj@legis.la.gov
James, Edward C. (D)Baton Rouge(225) 925-4859jamest@legis.la.gov
Jones, Sam (D)Franklin(337) 828-7778joness@legis.la.gov
Lambert, Eddie J. (R)Gonzales(225) 673-5048larep059@legis.la.gov
Leopold, Christopher J. (R)Belle Chasse(504) 393-5649leopoldc@legis.la.gov
Morris, James (R) VCOil City(318) 995-6852larep001@legis.la.gov
Montoucet, Jack (D)Crowley(337) 783-2999montoucj@legis.la.gov
Ortego, Stephen J. (D)Carencro(337) 886-4687ortegos@legis.la.gov
Schexnayder, Clay (R)Sorrento(225) 473-6016schexnayderc@legis.la.gov

The Almost Final Push

Dear Colleagues,

It may not seem like it if you read the stories of the last few weeks, but believe it-- we have a decent chance to kill all the bills that threaten the flood protection authority's lawsuit against the oil & gas industry.

Grassroots pressure-- your pressure-- has finally loosened up some of the votes against us. Now we need more pressure to break those votes free.

Jindal and the industry filed 17 bills against the lawsuit. Right now it looks like only three have a chance of passing. And to keep even that many bills alive, the industry and Jindal had to violate the rules of both the House and Senate.

I said before, history doesn't happen. People make history. You are making history.

We have a great chance to defeat two of the three remaining bills, SB 547 & SB 553, in the House Civil Law Committee, now scheduled to meet Tuesday. The industry and the governor are applying as much pressure as they can, but we look good in this committee. You are the only counterweight to their pressure. If you live in the districts of members of that committee please tell them to let the courts decide. Committee members are:

NAMEPOSITIONDISTRICTPARTY
Abramson, Neil C.Chairman98D
Landry, NancyVice Chair31R
Arnold, Jeffery "Jeff"Member102D
Edwards, John BelMember72D
Gaines, Randal L.Member57D
Garofalo, Raymond E.Member103R
Henry, CameronMember82R
Huval, MikeMember46R
Jefferson, Patrick O.Member11D
Miller, Gregory A.Member56R
Schexnayder, ClayMember81R
Shadoin, Robert E.Member12R
Williams, Alfred C.Member61D
Kleckley, ChuckEx Officio36R
Leger, Walt IIIEx Officio91D

That leaves SB 469, which by twisting the rules the industry got assigned to House Natural Resources, which will hear the bill Wednesday. Nonetheless, we have a chance to win there. Again, if you live in the districts above let them hear from you. Especially if you live in Garofalo's or Schexnayder's district, let them hear from you. They're on both committees and both would vote against us right now. Chris Leopold in Plaquemines is also a key.

If 469 does get out of committee, we have a 50-50 chance of winning on the House floor. That battle will come the following week.

I've been to Baton Rouge almost every day. I'm tired. I'm sure you're tired, too, especially if you've already sent emails or letters or called. But if you want to win, you will exert more effort than ever. Contact your representative again. Get friends and neighbors and clerks in stores to do it. Get everyone on your email list to do it. It matters.

We`are so close we can taste it. Let's do it.

Thanks,
John


Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans urges defeat of SB 553. Lives depend on flood authority independence! When voters statewide approved the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities (SLFPAs) by an overwhelming 81 percent in the Sept. 30, 2006, constitutional election, they created two politically independent levee districts as political subdivisions and units of local government.

They voted to put public safety first, to create constitutional protection for two local-area flood protection authorities and to keep them out of politics (particularly, out of gubernatorial politics).

The political independence of these two regional flood protection authorities relies hugely on their status as political subdivisions. Under Louisiana’s Constitution, they are units of local (not state) government. They serve our metropolitan-area flood protection needs and are not controlled by the governor, as they were pre-Katrina.

Now, legislative assaults on their political independence seek to move them away from the protections of local government, treating them as state agencies subject to the governor’s control.

That’s not what Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans fought for in 2006. That’s not what Louisiana voters approved when they passed the 2006 constitutional amendment.  Read more »

 

URGENT ACTION REQUESTED:  PLEASE CALL MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE ENVIRONMENT AND TELL THEM TO VOTE AGAINST SB 469. VOTE IS EXPECTED ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, BUT COULD CHANGE AT ANY TIME!


It is ambiguously worded and will erode the rights of parishes to file suit for violations of the Clean Water Act, the River and Harbors Act and the Coastal Zone Management Program. This bill was formerly Senator Brett Allain's SB 531, but became SB 469 through sleight-of-hand and transferred out of Senate Judiciary Committee A, where it would have been defeated, to the Senate Natural Resources Committee where it passed on a voice vote May 7. 
 
NAMEPOSITIONDISTRICTPARTY
Dove, GordonChairman52R
Bishop, Stuart J.Vice Chair43R
Armes, James K.Member30D
Billiot, Robert E.Member83D
Chaney, Charles R.Member19R
Connick, PatrickMember84R
Foil, Franklin J.Member70R
Garofalo, Raymond E.Member103R
Gisclair, JerryMember54D
Guinn, John E.Member37R
Harrison, JoeMember51R
James, Edward C. "Ted"Member101D
Jones, SamMember50D
Lambert, Eddie J.Member59R
Leopold, Christopher J.Member105R
Montoucet, JackMember42D
Morris, James "Jim"Member1R
Ortego, Stephen J.Member39D
Schexnayder, ClayMember81R
Kleckley, ChuckEx Officio36R
Leger, Walt IIIEx Officio91D

Last week, April 28-May 1, the Green Army with the sponsorship of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, traveled across the coastal zone and south Louisiana visiting with communities where lives and properties have been compromised or destroyed by the callous disregard of the oil and gas industry.  These communities included Bayou Corne, Lake Peigneur, Vermillion and Cameron parishes, Mossville, and Standard Heights in Baton Rouge.  On Thursday evening, May 1, the tour rolled into Abita Springs to lend support to St. Tammany Parish residents who are fighting a permit that would allow Helios Energy the right to frack above the Southern Hills Aquifer.  Moss Robeson, an 18-year old rider on the tour, prepared this documentary from the week's events.

LOST PARADISE: The Green Army's "No Big Oil Bailout" Louisiana Bus Tour from Moss Robeson on Vimeo.


OUR MISSION

It took nature 6,000 years to create the Louisiana coast, yet only 75 years for humans to destroy one-third of it.  Already, 1,900 square miles of coastal lands have melted into the Gulf of Mexico, and that damage has put New Orleans and the entire region on the verge of collapse. The destruction of land is continuing, and if this area washes away, so will the economy and heart of the entire state -- and the nation will pay a price as well.

The oil industry is not the only party responsible for this destruction, but they are accountable for much of it.  RLN will initially devote itself to preventing political interference in the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the destruction of the coast -- the region’s first line of hurricane protection.

The message of these lawsuits is simple; obey the law, keep your word and fix what you broke.  According to a recent poll, 93% of coastal Louisiana residents say that oil, gas and pipeline companies, not taxpayers, should pay to fix their share of the damage to the coastal wetlands.  RLN proudly stands with those residents.

Watch John Barry's speech describing the necessity of the lawsuit:

John Barry Goes to the Rotary Club from Walter Williams on Vimeo.

May 5, 2014

Colleagues,

I'm tired. We're all tired. So is the other side. So far we have made the oil lobbyists work harder than they have ever worked. I'm dragging but I also see them dragging around the Capitol every day. They come up and complain to me about how hard they have to work.

You get to a point in a battle where everyone is tired. The one who wins that battle is the one who puts out just a little more effort.

So we're asking for another effort on your part-- and we need it right now.

Tomorrow afternoon the Senate will vote on a motion to send SB 469 to the Judiciary committee. SB 469 goes right for the jugular. It says the flood protection authority cannot sue the oil industry over damage to the coast, period.

If we win, it will be huge. If we win, the odds for winning the war shift in our favor.

Phone and email your senators. Tell them to let the courts decide. Send SB 469 back to the Judiciary Committee, where it should have been in the first place. And if SB 469 is voted on for final passage, vote to kill it.

Thanks,
John

If you're interested, here are a lot more details about this bill:

Talking Points for SB-469

With less than 24 hours’ notice Governor Jindal, backed by the oil and gas industry, proposed legislation that would preclude the constitutionally-mandated levee authority (the SLFPA-E) from pursing oil, gas and pipeline companies for damages they caused to Louisiana’s coast. The proposed SB 469 passed in committee:   No notice. No consideration of the broad impact it would have on the survival of the Greater New Orleans area. Leadership should ask these questions and demand answers: Does the bill apply retroactively? Or does it apply only prospectively? If the oil, gas and pipeline companies named as defendants in the SFLPA-E lawsuit use the bill to kill the case against them, what will that mean for coastal protection in the greater New Orleans area?

1.       SB-531 Set in Judiciary A. On Tuesday, April 29, SB-531 was on the agenda for a hearing in Senate Judiciary A. It was deferred at Sen. Allain’s request, likely because a canvas of the members indicated it would not pass.

2.       SB-469 Set in Natural Resources. Late in the day on Wednesday, April 30, Sen. Allain proposed an amendment to SB-469, a bill authored by Sen. Adley. The amendment deleted much of SB-469 and substituted much of the language of SB-531. It added Sen. Allain as a co-author. This procedure is highly unusual and may violate the Senate’s Rules.

3.       SB-469 Approved. Before the language to the amended bill could even be finalized, it was brought forward for a committee hearing in Natural Resources. Although Sen. Moorish and many of the people who testified objected to the short notice, the Committee heard the bill the next morning, Thursday, May 1. It was approved there and sent to the Senate floor.

4.       SB-469’s Stated Purpose (Allain). Sen. Allain testified that he authored SB-531/469 because he “knew about the natural servitude of drain.” He further stated the SLPFA-E lawsuit’s reliance on Louisiana Civil Code articles on natural servitude of drain put coastal landowners at risk of liability. Coastal landowners aren’t sued in the case, and SLPFA-E has stated it will not add them. Sen. Allain isn’t a lawyer and may misunderstand the finer points of the law. Further, his comments as to the legal tenets and legal implications of the SLFPA-E lawsuit underscore why the law was referred to the Judiciary Committee in the first place.

5.       SB-469’s Stated Purpose (Faircloth). Jimmy Faircloth testified that the bill would allow the oil companies to file exceptions and have the SLPFA-E’s lawsuit dismissed but that the rights of the parishes to bring lawsuits would be protected. He didn’t explain why such a dichotomy made sense as policy.

6.       Retroactivity Raised, but Not Answered. Glad Jones asked whether the amended bill was intended to apply retroactively. Mr. Faircloth never answered this question. One difference between SB-531 and amended 469 is that 531 specifically stated it was retroactive whereas 469 doesn’t contain that language. The senators are entitled to know which it is: prospective or retroactive?

7.       The Parishes Suits Have Different Scope. The lawsuit brought by SLFPA-E is designed to provide one thing – protection for the lives and property of taxpayers in the Greater New Orleans area from hurricane storm surge. The coastal lands protect the levees, and the levees protect the people, and the SLFPAE’s lawsuit is aimed directly at those goals. There is no other viable mechanism for obtaining this protection – not any state proposed alternative and not the parish lawsuits. The 28 separate parish lawsuits aim to enforce coastal use permits. But, the parish suits do not directly address land loss; they do not directly address hurricane protection; and they do not address at all the tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands that were lost as a result of oil and gas activity between 1932 and 1978. Any restoration undertaken as a consequence of the parish lawsuits might result in some measure of hurricane protection, but hurricane protection is not the intent of those suits by any measure.  Furthermore, in those parishes with separate levee districts, the parishes and the levee authorities have distinct responsibilities over distinct properties and, therefore, distinct claims and distinct damages.  Last, but certainly not least, the cost of the post-Katrina repairs was over $15 billion, so it isn’t difficult to see that giving the oil companies immunity from such claims could saddle taxpayers with responsibility for many billions in additional expenses for problems caused by oil and gas activities.

8.       Dismissals Are with Prejudice. If Faircloth’s prognosis is accurate about the exceptions, the SLPFA-E’s suit will be dismissed “with prejudice” which means that no suit can ever be brought on the same subject matter in the future.

9.       Dismissal Forecloses Settlement. Attorney General Caldwell has suggested he has had discussions with the oil and gas industry about working out a settlement related to coastal litigation. Allowing the SLFPA-E’s lawsuit to proceed would only help in that effort.

10.    Criticisms of Lawsuit Are Weak. The criticisms of the suit itself are weak:

a.       The lawsuit is often described as employing a “shotgun approach.” It does not. The activities of each defendant are described by permit number, pipeline, well serial number, and/or right of way. Historical aerial photography shows the damage over time caused by the described activities.

b.      The lawsuit and contract are often described as “illegal,” but they aren’t. LOGA and Sen. Adley have argued that the suit and contract are illegal since the suit was filed last summer. LOGA even sued to have it declared so, but lost. The LOGA/Adley position was found to be “frivolous.” The SLFPA-E can sue and be sued. Further, the statute creating the SLFPA-E afforded it powers to “establish ... erosion control measures, marsh management, coastal restoration, and other flood control works ....”

c.        Adley and Allain have described the servitude of drain claim as novel and weak, but the theory has been on the books since the Digest of 1808. Other cases employ the same theory in similar circumstances and, importantly, the author of the Code revisions, Professor Yiannopoulos has endorsed the theory for this application.

d.      Adley (and Garrett Graves, former CPRA director) often says the lawsuit wasn’t conceived in sunlight. But CPRA used exactly the same executive committee process as the SLPFA-E used in considering CPRA’s Corps suit, it is standard practice for public bodies to discuss litigation in executive session, and the SLPFA-E attorney contract has been with the House and Senate Transportation Committees since August of 2013.

e.      Adley often confuses the discussion of retroactivity by saying that what the oil and gas did wasn’t illegal when they did it and that the SLFPA-E is applying new laws retroactively to the oil and gas industry. But this is wrong. Internal memoranda show that the oil and gas industry knew what the laws were and knew it was breaking them.

11.   Interference with the Courts. The legislation interferes with the courts in contravention with the separation of powers delineated in the Louisiana Constitution, especially in Art. II, Sec. 2. These proposed laws would potentially affect the rights of parties in the currently pending SLPFA-E lawsuit and LOGA’s suit against the Attorney General – the suit LOGA just lost. Interfering with pending cases is something the legislature should be reluctant to do.

12.   Potential for Unconstitutionality due to Due Process and Impairment of Contract Violations. The legislature cannot take away rights of private parties and these laws do that in several ways, including by purporting to terminate SLPFA-E’s contracts with its lawyers.

13.   Generally Bad Policy to Give Rights to Some Person or Industry, But Not To Everyone. These laws would give special rights and immunities to oil and gas that aren’t widely applicable to all individuals and entities.

14.   The Voters and Thought Leaders Don’t Want This. Polls and editorials by all major newspapers are against what the legislature is doing and are in support of SFLPA-E’s lawsuit.


30 April 2014
 
Dear Colleagues, Friends, & Supporters, 
 
Two important pieces of news:
 
First, last week Louisiana’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell made public something I've hinted at in my talks: there are on-going conversations about a statewide settlement. On the Jim Engster radio show last week (listen here), Caldwell announced that because of the SLFPAE lawsuit, major oil companies have come to him seeking a statewide settlement. 
 
We've always hoped that the lawsuit would spark a statewide deal. Conversely, we’ve recognized that if the legislature kills the lawsuit, there's no reason for the oil companies to compromise. There is a solution if the state would simply seal it. The governor has turned his back on that possibility. As citizens, lets make sure the legislature does not.
 
Which brings us to the latest news from Baton Rouge:
 
You almost did it! 
 
Thanks to your engagement, we were today on the verge of crushing SB 531—a huge victory—in Senate Judiciary Committee A, when its sponsor,  Senator Bret Allain (R-Franklin), asked that it be deferred. He knew he didn't have the votes—had there been a roll-call vote, we’d have beaten SB 531 by a vote at least of 5-2 and possibly 6-1. 
 
Rather than accept defeat, Sen. Allain did something highly unusual. He gutted an entirely different (and as yet unknown) bill currently scheduled to be heard on Thursday, May 1, by the Senate Natural Resources Committee—and substitute in its place what he couldn’t get passed by Judiciary-A.  It's even possible that our old friend Senator Robert Adley will use one of his bills as a vehicle for this Trojan horse.
 
At of this writing, we do not know which bill to target—we’ll let you know as soon as we do—nor do we know what the language of the bill will be. That's hardly my idea of sunshine in the legislature.
 
All we know is that it will be called up in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources on Thursday, May 1.
 
Please contact the members of this committee. Tell them, “Let the courts decide.” Let the roughly one million people within the jurisdiction of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority keep their rights to go to court. 
 
NameADDRESSEMAILPHONE
Senator Gerald Long (Chairman)P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483
longg@legis.la.gov(318) 628-5799
Senator Rick Ward, III (Vice-Chairman)3741 Highway 1
Port Allen, LA 70767
wardr@legis.la.gov(225) 246-8838
Senator R.L. "Bret" Allain, II600 Main Street
Suite 1
Franklin, LA 70538
allainb@legis.la.gov(337) 828-9107
Senator "Jody" Amedee2109 S. Burnside Ave.
Suite A
Gonzales, LA 70737
amedeej@legis.la.gov(225) 644-1526
Senator Norbèrt N. "Norby" ChabertP.O. Box 2417
Houma, LA 70361
chabertn@legis.la.gov(985) 858-2927
Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell6305 Elysian Fields Ave.
Suite 404
New Orleans, LA 70122
morrelljp@legis.la.gov(504) 284-4794
Senator Dan "Blade" Morrish119 W. Nezpique Street
Jennings, LA 70546
morrishd@legis.la.gov(337) 824-3979
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508
cortezp@legis.la.gov(337) 993-7430
 
You’ve defeated this bill once. Let's beat it again. As I’ve said before, history doesn't just happen. People make history. 
 
Let's make some history. Let's take back control of our state. Let's demonstrate that no one is above the law—not even the oil industry in Louisiana.
 
Thanks,
 
John

Click Here for earlier updates from John Barry